"mobile systems" entries

Boston hackathons to target mobile apps for disaster response

Two promising projects featured

Boston-area programmers can do a good deed and experiment with some unusual technologies at two upcoming hackathons that aid disaster response. The first hackathon takes place at MIT on October 5 and 6, and the second is at MassChallenge on November 2 and 3. Both are sponsored by AT&T along with other organizations, and feature mobile development.

I talked with Willow Brugh of Geeks Without Bounds, a self-described “accelerator for humanitarian projects” that mentors teams working on such things as development efforts and disaster response. GWB vetted the hackathon challenges and helped put them on a footing that should maximize success. Brugh told me of some of foci for the challenges.

Each challenge will allow developers to take the spotlight to propose their projects, as at most hackathons, and recruit other developers to work on them. But the MIT challenge will include an opportunity to work on an MIT project called OpenIR, which makes it easier to use satellite data to pick out features of the landscape of critical importance to disaster recovery, such as water or fire damage.

The MassChallenge event will similarly highlight Need Comms Now, a tool with the dual purpose of helping disaster respondents find working cell phone towers and conserve phone batteries. This project includes a server and an Android app. When the app detects the presence of a cell phone tower, it uploads the information to the server to help other respondents using the app. The app also downloads fresh data regularly about available towers, so that a respondent can avoid trying to connect until the signal is good, saving the battery.

Like many technologies designed for special purposes, OpenIR and Need Comms Now may prove valuable in more common scenarios too. Anyway, the disaster response technologies promise to be interesting and worth checking out at the hackathons.

The return of the Personal Area Network

"Humans are the routers." It's an idea that's ready to catch on.

The web of things and less intrusive "wearables" could reignite the personal area network, at least in a slightly different form from years past.

Welcome Laurel Ruma to Where 2.0

Where 2.0 2011 welcomes a new co-chair.

Laurel Ruma and Brady Forest will co-chair Where 2.0 2011, running April 19-21, 2011 in Santa Clara, Calif.

Crisis Commons releases open source oil spill reporting

The new iPhone and Android apps will allow organizations responding to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to report on the go. "The cool thing about the app is that the photos and information will be open to anyone to use," said Heather Blanchard, co-founder of Crisis Commons.

What I like about the health care technology track at the Open Source convention

The health care technology track at the Open Source convention
touches on core areas for improvement: patient-centered care, the use of
mobile devices, administrative efficiencies, and the collection,
processing, and display of statistics to improve health care

Mobile operating systems and browsers are headed in opposite directions

As the mobile OS market fragments, mobile browsers are consolidating

It's striking to see the different trajectories mobile operating systems are on when compared to the mobile web. The OS landscape is fragmenting as mobile browsers consolidate around WebKit. In 2006, two smartphone operating systems accounted for 81 percent of the market. Today no single operating system has more than 50 percent marketshare. Unlike mobile operating systems, mobile browsers were fragmented a few years ago. Today, every mobile browser is moving toward HTML5 support, if it isn't there already.

Foursquare wants to be the mayor of location apps

Dennis Crowley on Foursquare's gameplan and the secret sauce that drives the mobile service

Dennis Crowley cut his teeth on location services at mobile pioneer Dodgeball. Things didn't work out there, but he used his Dodgeball experience to shape Foursquare, an on-the-rise app that blends mobile, location awareness and a clever points system. In this Q&A, Crowley discusses Foursquare's revenue streams, its unexpected adaptations, and the one feature that gets new users hooked.

Pew Research asks questions about the Internet in 2020

Will Google Make Us Stupid? Will we live in the cloud or the desktop?

Pew Research, which seems to be interested in just about everything, conducts a "future of the Internet" survey every few years in which they throw outrageously open-ended and provocative questions at a chosen collection of observers in the areas of technology and society. I took the exercise as a chance to hammer home my own choices of issues, like: Will Google make us stupid? and Will we live in the cloud or the desktop?